Colbún Suspends HidroAysén Transmission Line

Berklee Lowrey-Evans

Well, now we know why HidroAysen has repeatedly pushed back the date for turning in the EIA for its transmission line. Yesterday, Colbun – 49% owner of HidroAysen – publicly announced that it "wants to indefinitely suspend plans to seek environmental permission to build transmission lines to the capital"because there's a lack of political agreement in the country around energy development.

An amazing shot of Patagonia
An amazing shot of Patagonia
Photo courtesy of the Patagonia Sin Represas Facebook group

Things are moving fast in Chile in regards to dam building and the ever-growing movement to protect Patagonia.

Last month, the Supreme Court rejected the seven appeals for legal protection filed by my campaign partners in Chile. Almost immediately, people throughout Chile once again took to the streets, and started organizing events to show the Chilean government that they will not let Patagonia be destroyed for profit.

On Earth Day, at least 5,000 people gathered in Santiago to give HidroAysén a red light on building their dams in Patagonia. The afternoon was a cultural event, with many different music performances by well-known groups and local Patagonian artists.

And then on May 8, one day short of the first anniversary of the approval of the EIA for the HidroAysén dams, the same regional government body approved the first of Energia Austral's proposed dams in Patagonia, called the Rio Cuervo Dam. Read my colleague Amanda Maxwell's blog for information on the serious problems with the Rio Cuervo Dam and why it should never have been approved. The punchline? The Rio Cuervo Dam would be built smack dab inside an active earthquake zone. How active? The region saw a 6.2 earthquake only 5 years ago, which also produced a tsunami and killed 10 people.

The next day there was a protest in front of La Moneda – the presidential palace in Santiago – by the group Patagones en Santiago (Patagonians in Santiago), showing that they are nowhere near giving up on protecting the place they call home from these destructive dams. If you speak spanish, you'll enjoy this video they made of their event.

Merely two days later, the Supreme Court of Chile accepted the appeal of Rio Cuervo's approval. The project is now frozen, and Energia Austral must submit a new soil study for the dam site. The environmental review commission will then have to decide anew whether or not to approve the project.